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Southern Spars

Vendee Globe - Guillemot and Safran ready to set off

by Soazig Guého on 10 Nov 2012
Marc Guillemot And Pascal Bidegorry onboard Safran talking about weather forecast. Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendée Globe © http://www.vendeeglobe.org
The big day, the start of the Vendee Globe, is almost here. At 1302hrs CET (1202hrs GMT) on Saturday, Marc Guillemot will be setting off around the world aboard Safran. The weather for the start is looking fairly good, but they will face their first hurdle at Cape Finisterre, as they will have to deal with a ridge of high pressure with light winds. Marc is looking at this closely with Pascal Bidégorry.

While routing is not allowed during the race, it is possible, and indeed highly recommended, to prepare the weather for the start by discussing it with others. That is what Marc Guillemot has been doing with Pascal Bidégorry. Over the past few days, the two sailors have been continually updating their information and their interpretation of the charts and wind speeds. Down below inside Safran, they each put forward their point of view. So what can they expect tomorrow?

'The sailors are sleeping easier than four days ago,' joked Pascal Bidégorry to begin with, 'as earlier in the week, there was the fear of a huge storm for the start. But in the end, the low-pressure area is not as deep and is further north than initially forecast. In other words, the conditions are not going to be horrendous. At first sight, there is no major risk of the sort of damage we saw in 2008.' With a front passing over, 'the boats will be sailing upwind on the starboard tack in winds of around fifteen knots. They should make a quick exit from the Bay of Biscay, reaching or with the wind on the beam, as they approach Cape Finisterre.'

But it will be off the north-western tip of Spain that 'as usual, they will have to round the corner and this time it will be as they get close to a ridge of high pressure.' To cross this area of light winds, the sailors have two major options. They can either continue westwards trying to reach the trade winds, or alternatively they can try to slip down the coast of Portugal. Potentially, we can therefore imagine the fleet separating out between these two options sometime between Sunday evening and Monday morning. 'But a word of caution,' adds Pascal Bidégorry, 'The various weather models don’t yet agree. Our work with Marc is to come up with the various situations, but it will be down to him to work on that out on the water.'

Marc confirms, 'It’s very interesting to work with Pascal on the various routes obtained from using different weather sources, the American and European models to be precise. They more or less agree down to Cape Finisterre, but after that there are differences. I know too how important it is to pay attention to minor wind shifts. I’m also going to have to keep an eye out for all the shipping that we are likely to meet at the start of the race.' We were unable to find out more than that (it is after all a race) about this first strategic option.

After spending three weeks dealing with all the requests from the media and technical matters, Marc Guillemot will be 'battening down the hatches' at around four this afternoon. The big day of the start of the race is tomorrow and then he will face almost three months alone at sea. 'So for my final evening ashore, I would like to spend a quiet evening with the family with my mobile turned off.'

Safran will be leaving the Vendée Globe pontoon at 0942 hrs local time to make her way out of the legendary harbour entrance, where the crowds will amass in Les Sables d'Olonne. At 1254 hrs (CET), the start procedures (the eight minute countdown) will begin. At 1302 hrs (1202 hrs GMT), the starting gun will signal that the racers can get underway. Two hours later, the final accompanying boats will have turned back and the sailors will find themselves alone to deal with all they face. The race will then be Vendee Globe website

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